Afternoon Tea and Fancy Food

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”  Henry James, The Portrait Of A Lady.

Afternoon tea offers a variety of rich, creamy cakes and sweet pastries.  Ribbon sandwiches are sometimes served with savoury nibbles but the ubiquitous tea, scones, crumpets and homemade preserves are still in evidence.

The British aristocracy conceived Afternoon Tea a long time before their working classes began to consume High Tea in the evening.  Traditionally afternoon tea is lighter than high tea, the latter consisting of heavier food like meats and fish which possibly morphed into dinner.  Who knows?  I’m only going on what I’ve read.

Australia was founded by the British so, up until recently, a fair amount of our eating habits were ever-so-English and afternoon Tea For Two was practiced both domestically and in cafés until the advance of a more universal drink coffee.  Most people are lucky if they get afternoon tea now, e.g. in my experience people have a break at ‘morning tea’ time.

My grandmother’s hand-stitched tablecloth and serviettes were linen and a deliciously laden 3-tiered cake stand was placed in the centre of the table on a crocheted doily.  A posy of fresh flowers was discreetly positioned beside the teapot, milk jug and sugar bowl.  The cutlery was usually a knife, for spreading strawberry jam and cream, and a spoon for stirring your tea.

The crockery set was china or hand-painted porcelain and generally both cups and saucers displayed dainty flowers.  I learned to tell the difference between a teapot and a coffee pot by the position of the spout.  Not many people remember the design reason for this!  Sometimes during pouring, a small tea strainer was used.  I won’t go into the variety of teas available but traditionally alcohol was not served.

“Happiness for me is largely a matter of digestion” said writer Lin Yutang and added “There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life” ― Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living.

These are my thoughts becoming words and not necessarily historical facts; just how I remember it when I visited my grandmother in Melbourne, Victoria.  As a child, in the homes of my friends, a serving of apple pie with ice-cream was just as good.  Friday evening fish and chips were a treat, and when the first pizza was taken from the pizzeria oven, we were not sure how to pronounce it let alone eat it.

I have a pot of leaf tea with my breakfast and use a tea cosy.  Teapots come in all shapes and sizes, and tea cosies, once the staple of the twentieth century Australian woman’s knitting repertoire, covered the pot and kept it warm.  While the tea leaves brewed, a colourful and creative tea cosy added to the charm of many an afternoon tea table.

NOTE : Afternoon tea images may induce hunger pangs!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


IMG_20180309_084308

History : https://afternoontea.co.uk/information/history-of-afternoon-tea/

Tea Party : https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-throw-afternoon-tea-party

Teapot Museum : http://www.bygonebeautys.com.au/tearooms/

Teatowels : https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/10/01/teatowel-of-ignominy/

 

Love Food Hate Waste Campaign

Brisbane Queensland Australia 05
Brisbane Queensland Australia

Maybe it’s because I was brought up by post-war parents that I am shocked at the staggering amount of food waste in Brisbane.  I could not understand why our local Government has joined the world-wide campaign Love Food Hate Waste.  Surely you only buy, cook and eat what you need and freeze leftovers?

Apparently for millions of households, it’s not that simple!

The Council brochure states “Love Food Hate Waste was launched in 2007 by Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP) in the United Kingdom followed by New Zealand, Canada and Australia.  With food waste making up 37% of the average Brisbane rubbish bin, 1 in 5 shopping bags of food ends up in the bin.  That’s 97,000 tonnes of food thrown away every year.   There are simple and practical changes which residents can make in the kitchen to reduce food waste; planning, preparation and storage of food will make a big difference to your wallet and keep Brisbane clean, green and sustainable.”

Scramble over the mat, don’t trip on the dog, here’s a tasty listicle of Council wisdom prepared earlier:

  • Plan meals ahead – create a meal plan based on what is already in your fridge, freezer and pantry.
  • Shop mindfully – stick to your shopping list!
  • Store food correctly – Learn how to store food to ensure it lasts as long as possible and check your refrigerator is functioning at maximum efficiency.
  • Cook with care – Without controlling portions, we tend to waste food when we prepare or cook too much.  Remember fruit and vegetables ripen quickly and are best consumed daily.
  • Love your leftovers – Freeze leftovers to use for lunches, keep for snacks, or add to another main meal.
  • Consider composting – Turn your kitchen scraps into rich nutrients for your garden, get a Bokashi bucket, consider owning pets like chickens or guinea pigs.
  • Join a community garden – Composting hubs operate in selected community gardens.
  • Six-week food waste challenge – Every week the Council will provide step-by-step information on how you can reduce food waste in your home.  Seriously.

Bokashi Bucket Diagram 01

We are over-stocked, over-fed and over-indulgent of our taste buds.  Or as my dear mother would say “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Love Food Hate Waste BCC Campaign

Apple Queen

CARTOON GIRL EATING AN APPLE
Crunch Munch

My childhood nickname was “Apple Queen”.  In later years, I have wondered why I wasn’t called “Apple Princess” but I think it may have had something to do with the name of a variety of apple at that time.  One of my mother’s favourite early black and white photographs of me, taken in my grandparents’ long driveway at Hampton, Victoria, illustrates my love of apples.  I have a Granny Smith apple in each hand, possibly from a homegrown tree.  I was about four years old and, by the look on my face, quite serious about the art of eating apples.

I still am.  One sits next to me as I type.  If I need a snack, a lunch box filler or fruit for a picnic, I grab an apple.  Drool has formed in the corners of my mouth when I’ve looked at apples with sultanas and honey.  Strudel, pies, pureed or skewered on a kebab, the texture and essence of apples is never lost. That crisp, sweet smell pervades my senses, particularly when I walk into a room and get a whiff of that fruity fragrance.  Immediately I want to chomp my teeth into the cool, smooth skin, break through that thin protective layer to taste its juicy flesh.  That first crunch is like no other sound.  The sound reverberates through my jaw as I munch the apple into cider and swallow.

Granny Smith Apple
Apple Green

In my haste to eat an apple, I have been known to choke on a piece but it has never put me off.  My mother could devour a whole apple, pips and all, but that’s not my style.  I denude the apple to the core then toss the remains into the garden for some foraging creature to finish off.

I have a vivid memory of apple blossom and then tiny green and red striped apples forming on a tree we had in our backyard at Mount Waverley, Victoria.  Picking them too soon, I recall my disappointment at their unripe, bitter flavour.  Just recently I have read that apples are helpful to asthma sufferers and, since I am a life-long asthmatic, I wondered if instinct might have played a part in my voracious consumption.  It certainly had nothing to do with Adam or Eve.

Occasionally, I am asked about my favourite variety and I answer “Any.  As long as it’s not bruised.”  Apples creep into my salads, my sauces and, thanks to a friend, into my hamburger mince.  To me, a dessert isn’t a proper dessert unless it contains apples.  Imagine a world without apple pie and ice-cream!  My father liked cloves cooked into apple pies and that’s the only time I didn’t like my mother’s cooking.  To this day I don’t know why the odd flavouring of clove is meant to enhance cooked apples.

Pink Lady Apples
Pink Lady

The very shape of an apple is pleasing to me, even the logo on my laptop.  During my teenage years, I collected ornaments in the shape of apples.  Two examples may have survived.  A red china apple made in two halves, the bottom half containing candle wax.  The other apple made of hand-blown glass, with a glass leaf, which contains layers of coloured sands from Cooloola Beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland.

Baby daughters are now being named Apple; it’s something I didn’t think of at the time and I’m hoping it’s after the apple blossom fruit rather than the corporation.  My fruit bowl is really an apple bowl with other fruit scattered around for effect.  Sometimes toffee apples will creep into the mix and I treat them with caution.  Hard red toffee and my teeth don’t work well together but I never let that stop me.

Happy torta di mele!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Apple Pie
Home Bake

Apple 06